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Oahu: Spiritual Serenity

Sometimes, when you feel that warm breeze or feel some type of spiritual or emotional vibe, it’s because the grounds are very tribally and culturally connected.

In November of 2009, I was approached with the suggestion that I should handle all of the Obama’s logistics on their personal trip to Hawaii for Christmas. They also gave me the opportunity to bring a member of our family to share in the holidays with me. So, I  very excitedly accepted, but cautiously approached my mother thinking she wasn’t going to be remotely interested in anything other than what we’ve always done – our white Chicago Christmas. I tiptoed around the topic for weeks and finally said, “So mom, I got this opportunity. They want me to go to Hawaii for Christmas. What do you  think?” And all I heard on the other end of the phone was her yelling, “YES! Where do I  sign up?! I’ll buy my ticket today! Absolutely!!” And I was just dumbfounded that she was so excited! 

There is such a family-oriented vibe in Hawaii. Over the course of the years, I not only brought my mom, but I also was able to bring my uncle, my friends, my mom’s friends,  and my godchildren. Hawaii is now a part of all of our lives, a part of who we are. The warm ohana spirit took over and now I can’t envision a Christmas, not in Hawaii. One of my favorite things about Hawaii at the holidays is that they actually celebrate. It will be  80 degrees and they will still have Christmas trees on the beach. Literally, they bring  Christmas trees on the beach! The decorations make you actually feel the Christmas spirit. 

Hawaii is so traditionally inclusive, especially in holiday love, and the ohana spirit is just everything. Polynesian culture in general is just so spiritually amazing. Hawaii used to have a monarchy and there are places dedicated to this rich history where they talk about the king’s spirit still living. Sometimes, when you feel that warm breeze or feel some type of spiritual or emotional vibe, it’s because the grounds are very tribally and culturally connected.

Every time I go to the Pali Lookout in Oahu, I feel some kind of way. In Hawaiian culture,  you spread a loved one’s ashes off cliffs. A lot of people have spread ashes at the Pali  Lookout, so when you go you feel this energy. My Uncle Greg would always go to the  Pali Lookout before he passed in 2012, so I still get this tingle when I go. We used to drive all the way from Waikiki to Kailua. I don’t really drive when I’m there anymore, so I don’t pass by the Pali Lookout as much, but when I do, there’s something in the air. Not just the Pali Lookout though, but any of the hikes I go on in Hawaii. You get up there, and you just feel like you’re above it all.

There are so many memories of my mom there. Her spirit still lives with me, especially when I’m in Oahu. We spent so much time at Hanauma Bay. Even President Obama’s mom used to go there when she was pregnant with him to just pray and spend time by herself. There are so many places in Hawaii where you just feel this immense sense of serenity…Serenity is the word I would use to describe the feeling Oahu brings me. 

Luckily, along the course of this job I’ve also had the opportunity to see Hawaii at times other than the holidays. We planned the APEC 2011 Summit in Hawaii, which allowed me many opportunities to go back and forth as we planned. It’s also President  Obama’s home. He’s very much a surfer dude who loves the water, and is so proud of his home, and loves to share it with us. I’ve gotten to learn personally about it from him and his sister Maya. Oahu has honestly become a second home for me. From the cliffs of Hanauma Bay, to the beautiful beaches of Kailua, Oahu is just insanely beautiful. Even CNN has named Kailua Beach Park #1 in the U.S. for like a bazillion years.

Oahu has honestly become a second home for me. From the cliffs of Hanauma Bay, to the beautiful beaches of Kailua, Oahu is just insanely beautiful.


Then, there’s the North Shore… Oh the North Shore. The North Shore is a tourist attraction, but the beach there is just pristine and gorgeous. It’s a surfer’s paradise. And there are food trucks everywhere! You can go to the burger trucks, and there’s this bomb shrimp truck, and even a specialty ice cream shop. It’s literally food heaven. But we always try new restaurants in Hawaii. Always. There are constantly new up-and-coming places. Honolulu is really a bustling city. There are all of these fun new concepts and such fresh fish. The culinary scene in Hawaii is always reinventing itself. It’s a big deal because they have so many tourists and it’s around the corner from Japan,  so there’s a huge Asian influence (which is my fave). 

Of course, everything changed in 2020. I’m so grateful that we made it back to Oahu for Christmas, but getting there and staying there comfortably presented a brand new set of challenges and restrictions due to COVID. I had to adapt quickly and stay up-to date on the constant changes, and still find ways we could all enjoy the treasured holiday retreat uninterrupted. We implemented continuous COVID testing protocols based on CDC and local guidelines, I scoped out which businesses, services, and experiences were still open and safely available to us, and I prepared the house and staff to make sure we functioned at the highest levels of health and safety at all times.  

Even as we’re looking forward to recovering from the pandemic, Oahu is still not completely open. I’m constantly updating my lists and information so our members can access the best Oahu has to offer!  

First, finding the right vacation home right now is key. I have amazing relationships with local realtors who always find the perfect fit – Lanikai Beach is our go-to and this gem is a favorite, or you can stay in this gorgeous house closer to downtown! If you want more  private, untapped space you can try Ko Olina, where the Four Seasons and Disney’s  Aulani Resort are open.  

I’m happy to report that some of the best restaurants and eateries are beginning to safely re-open including lots of my favorites on the list below. But since dining out is still limited right now, I can recommend a talented chef to make sure our members are deliciously well fed. I can also point members to markets for fresh foods and local produce (Down to Earth is the BEST!).  

All of my recommendations are based on my depth of knowledge, my resources, and the experiences from the White House up to now. 

There is so much beauty and culinary excitement in Oahu that I want to share. When I  travel to Hawaii these are my things – where I like to stay, eat, and sing Hawaiian  Christmas songs at the top of my lungs. I am so excited to share the ohana spirit with our members and use all my experience and knowledge to help them discover their favorite Oahu.  

Mele Kalikimaka,

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